On Friday 16th September, each of us was given a practitioner or a topic relating to our ‘Shakespeare and Long Frocks’ project. The purpose of this was that in this period, the only theatre knowledge I really had was of Shakespeare, forgetting that there were other practitioners around this time. The aim for me was the present my findings on Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, including their biography and some of their works. This would give me the opportunity to present in front of a group and put all the presenting skills I learned from last year into my performance (such as not constantly looking at note and connecting to the audience). The other aim was to learn about the topics that others were tasked to research and write this information down. Other topics were: Aphra Ben, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Webster, Restoration Comedy, Boy Actors in Shakespeare and What Came Before Shakespeare?
In terms of presentation skills, I put numbers next to different sections of my notes so I knew the order of what I was going to say, however, for any future presentations like this, I want to be able to organise my notes better as I still got slightly confused. Before the session, I went over my notes so I wouldn’t have to keep looking down, this then gave me the opportunity to connect with my audience and look at them to give eye contact to keep them engaged. As well as their biography and plays, which I was able to explain, I also mentioned about their play with William Shakespeare (Henry VIII) which caused the 1613 Globe Fire theatre after a cannon was fired at the roof, a fact that got an amusing reaction. In terms of the information, I was able to separately talk about their early life and explain the plot of a couple of their plays clearly. Although I wrote on the board, I tried to keep information limited because if I put everything down, they wouldn’t have to listen to me, they could just read the board. The only piece of feedback I got from Lynn was my pronunciation of ‘Southwark’, in the video, I pronounced it as if it were two different words, however, it is pronounced the way I would say ‘Suffolk’.
In terms of my information, I found it difficult to find detailed research on how the two started collaborating, as well as that, I wish I had mentioned more of their separate works. I briefly mentioned ‘The Light of the Burning Pestle’ by Beaumont but nothing on Fletcher (such as ‘Women Pleased’). However, I am glad I prioritised their collaboration works as the research topic was about both of them together.
I was then able to take notes on the other topics that were presented:
- Aphra Ben (1640-1689)-The first female professional playwright from the restoration period. She was born in Canterbury and was married to John Ben. In 1666 she acted as a spy and after getting into debt, ended up in prison. In order to pay this debt off, she started writing whilst in prison. Some of her plays include: The Rover (1677), Abdelazer (1676) and The City of Heiress (1682). Meanwhile, the work she is best known for is her novel Oroohoko (1688).
- Ben Jonson (1572-1637)- Born 9 years after Shakespeare, Jonson was the son of a clergyman, starting off with an apprenticeship in bricklaying before deciding he didn’t like it and moved to writing. Although he was seen as a poet at first, he moved to playwriting, with some of his works including: The Silent Woman, Volpone and The Alchemist.
- Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)- Marlowe was writing just before Shakespeare and was thought to be influenced by Marlowe. In his education years, his University hesitated to hand him his degreee as he was suspected for being a spy for Sir Francis Walsignham after buying more food than needed and getting many letters from the council. His first play, ‘Dido, Queen in Carthage’ was first performed by boy actors between 1587-93. Other plays include: ‘The Jew of Malta’, ‘Edward II’ and ‘The Massacre of Paris’.
- John Webster (1580-1634)- Little was known about Webster’s early years, it was thought that he trained as a lawyer where he then started writing. He wrote nothing between 1605 and 1611 but afterwards, wrote ‘The Dutchess of Malfi’, this was violence in Jacobean theatre and was known as a violent writer. Despite this, he didn’t write with the intention to shock but wanted to write about the truths of life. Another play he wrote was ‘The White Devil’. He was thought to have died in 1634, however, records of his death were destroyed in the Great Fire of London so this is an estimate.
- Restoration Comedy- This was part of the restoration period consisting of comedic plays between 1660-1710 following the restoration of the Monarch with Charles II becoming King (1660-1685). Because of the Commonwealth being in charge with no monarchy, theatre had been banned for 18 years so when it was restored, everyone went full out to have fun. Examples of playwrights include: John Tryden, George Etheredge and William Congreve. This period also saw the first female actors because before, female characters were performed by male actors.
- Boy Actors in Shakespeare- In this time, there were no female actors, female characters were performed by male, this continues from the above section. Adding on, female actors were first allowed to perform 44 years after his death, with the first female actor being Julia Rosalind. Before this, females were criticised for even being in attendance as it was thought they distracted the male performers and would spread disease.
- What Came Before Shakespeare? (Medieval Theatre)- This type of theatre originated in the 10th century. Many people in this time couldn’t write so they would get their inspiration from the bible as that was the only story they had. Different genres included: mystery, farce and morality. With mystery, plays would be performed by people with certain traits and occupations, for example, goldsmiths would do a play and others would wonder how they could perform as a goldsmith. Famous works include ‘The York Mystery Plays’ (York still put on mystery cylces), Wakefield Mystery Plays and Chester Mystery Plays. Staging for performances in medieval times would be shaped as a horseshoe so everyone would be able to see all the action on stage.
Overall, compared to last year where I was constantly looking at my notes while presenting, I took that into consideration and felt I improved. In future, I will make sure that I know how to pronounce certain words such as ‘Southwark’, I would also like to not have to need any notes at all and have everything memorised. A final point to improve would be to practise beforehand so I know everything I am going to say and not misinform the audience, this could be from not remembering it properly and being vague. In terms of the topics, I was able to learn a lot of new information and gain a new side to this time period which isn’t just Shakespeare. For presenting skills as a whole, I learned to not get so tense but to enjoy it instead, audiences want to hear what you have to say so make it interesting for them.